MIPRC visits Congress to promote Midwest passenger rail
MIPRC commissioners met with 49 Midwestern Members of Congress and/or their staff during individual office visits in Washington, D.C. on May 23 to stress the importance of maintaining a strong federal/state partnership for passenger rail development. Commissioners also illuminated the growing demand for regional passenger rail in the Midwest, along with recent developments in track and equipment upgrades. (See MIPRC’s key advocacy points here.)
Commissioners emphasized the continuing strong increases in ridership both on state-supported corridor service and the region’s long-distance trains, highlighted the need for ongoing federal investment in passenger rail, similar to other modes of transportation, and pointed out that higher speed passenger rail can be built without compromising the role played by freight rail. Commissioners also noted the economic, energy and environmental benefits of regional plans to build a network of faster, more frequent passenger rail.
Commissioners and MIPRC staff also met with Amtrak officials to discuss Amtrak’s and MIPRC’s priorities and the current Congressional session.
The previous day (May 22), MIPRC hosted briefings for House and Senate staff, providing them with overviews of MIPRC’s organization and aims, the current state of passenger rail service and ridership across the Midwest, a state-by-state summary of recent corridor improvements made possible through federal funding to states for passenger rail capital improvements and planning, and the FRA-led long-term Midwest Regional Rail study (see MIPRC’s presentation here).
Commissioners also requested that Congress fully fund the passenger rail-related grant programs in the FAST Act to their authorized levels, and maintain funding for the popular TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) discretionary grant program. The administration’s budget, coincidentally released on May 23, proposes to eliminate all funding for Amtrak’s long-distance trains and the TIGER grant program. (See MIPRC’s letter to Congress opposing those cuts here.)
“Having state legislators and governor’s designees meeting with members of Congress or their staff provides MIPRC the opportunity to express the states’ commitment to intercity passenger rail and the need for a strong federal partner,” said MIPRC Chair Tim Hoeffner, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Office of Rail and Gov. Rick Snyder’s designee to MIPRC. “The states have stepped up and we need the federal government to stand with the states.”
MIPRC commissioners on the trip included Beth McCluskey (Illinois), Rep. Sharon Negele (Indiana), Wichita Ald. Pete Meitzner (Kansas), MIPRC Chair Tim Hoeffner (Michigan), Joan Bray (Missouri), Sens. Dan Quick and Lynne Walz (Nebraska), Rep. Kim Koppelman (North Dakota) and Sen. Mark Miller (Wisconsin).